Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring SCBWI Conference Continued

As promised, I'm back to discuss the remaining presenters at the recent Spring SCBWI Dakotas Conference.

First up, Chris Richman, an agent with Upstart Crow Literary. Chris is actively building his list and is interested in MG and YA fiction with strong commercial hooks, standout voices and plots that grab him and refuse to let go. Chris enjoys working with debut writers and, per his report, loves "dark fantasy" so go for it if any of you out there have something for him. You can find submission guidelines on the Upstart Crow Literary website at Chris' presentation discussed pitching your novel, and he really promoted making your query work for your project and targeting the right people. He said that although a pitch is important, strong writing is a must..."You have to stand out--that's the bottom line."

Lindsay Schlegel, an editor with Simon and Schuster who works with the Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books Imprints, spoke about PBs: From Submission to Storytime. She stressed that "story trumps everything." Her presentation was very helpful, especially in terms of what to think about in the picture book process, namely rhyme and repetition, page turn and thinking visually. Unfortunately, Simon and Schuster Imprints are closed to unagented submissions with the exception of conference attendees (we get one unagented submission in the next six months--yippee!).

Chris Browne, illustrator and cartoonist of the syndicated comic strip Hagar the Horrible, and Chris Rylander, author of the MG novel THE FOURTH STALL scheduled for early 2011 release from HarperCollins, completed the panel.

While Chris Browne did not give a specific presentation, he was on the panel for the Question and Answer session as well as conducting informal critiques of art portfolios. I had the privilege of sitting at a table with Chris and thoroughly enjoyed his company and tales of his life and ancestors. He grew up in CT and lived for 28 years in FL. For the last three years, he and his wife have lived in SD about an hour from where I live. He is extremely funny and wonderfully talented, and I encourage you all to read Hagar the Horrible if you don't already.

Chris Rylander is the new Regional Advisor for the SCBWI Dakotas and organized a wonderful conference as you have read. Thank you, Chris; my hat is off to you for a job well done!

Monday, April 19, 2010

SCBWI Dakotas Spring Conference

As I said in a recent post, I just attended the fourth annual Spring SCBWI Dakotas Writers and Illustrators Conference. The presenters/faculty were as follows: Chris Richman, Agent with Upstart Crow Literary; Lindsay Schlegel, Editor with Simon and Schuster; Chris Browne, Illustrator and cartoonist of Hagar the Horrible; Rebecca Johnson, Author; and Chris Rylander, Author and Regional Advisor for the SCBWI Dakotas. All of the presenters shared great insight and useful information, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the tidbits I gleaned from these awesome presentations.

First off was Rebecca Johnson. She amazed me! Rebecca is an award-winning author of more than 75 books for young children, young adults and adults on diverse scientific subjects, most recently about the new organisms discovered during the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year global survey of ocean life.

Rebecca's research has taken her to far-flung parts of the world--into the heart of Antarctica, for example, and to New Zealand to study one of the world's most rare birds, the Kakapu.

Rebecca's involvement in the Census of Marine Life led to her newest book to be released in May 2010, Journey Into the Deep. Make yourself a note to get your copy at Amazon or Lerner if you are a science lover, or even if you're not. The marine life discovered for the first time ever are incredible. Rebecca shared a sneak peak of the photos used in the book at the conference. They are truly incredible! Words cannot even describe how cool are the Barrel-Eyed Fish with it's transparent head and huge, green eyes that rotate; the Ping Pong Ball Sponge and the Swimming Sea Cucumber. This is truly a book not to miss. Rebecca had just learned the day prior to the conference that Journey Into the Deep is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Much congrats to you, Rebecca. This honor is greatly deserved!

From a technical/professional writer standpoint, Rebecca shared so many words of wisdom, most notable to me was, "write what you love...write what you know." This is so true. If we aren't excited about our writing, how are we to encite excitement in the reader and a desire to pick up and read our work?

In a separate breakout session, Rebecca discussed finding time to write and using it. She suggested we figure out what we are spending our time on and cut back on, or eliminate, time zappers. I found this profound--"Perfection is the enemy of good." Perfection is my nemesis!

Rebecca also suggested we find our "zone," or time we are most able to write, and do nothing but write when in the zone. One other tidbit I found inspiring was, "Stop waiting for the BIG CHUNKS of time--they're not going to come." I am so guilty of this and need to learn to set small goals that are accomplishable and stop throwing in the towel on the days when the "big chunk" of time doesn't appear.

Per Rebecca, if you choose the writing life, "write daily...commit....choose it whole-heartedly...decide now to be one of those writers." What profound yet simple words!

I think that is enough for today. I thank you for letting me ramble on but know there are many of you out there that can benefit from Rebecca's sage advice. I know I am better for it!

I'll blog about the remaining presenters in my next post. I hope you enjoyed reading about Rebecca's presentation. She is truly inspiring both as a person and an author.

Monday, April 12, 2010

SCBWI Dakotas

This past weekend, I attended the regional SCBWI Dakotas Writers and Illustrators Conference in Sioux Falls, SD. The presenters were amazing with much information gained by all. The networking opportunities with publishing professionals were wonderful as well. Members of the faculty included Chris Richman, Agent with Upstart Crow Literary; Lindsay Schlegel, Editor with Simon and Schuster; Chris Browne, Illustrator and cartoonist of the syndicated comic strip Hagar the Horrible; Rebecca Johnson, Author; Chris Rylander, Author and Regional Advisor for the SCBWI Dakotas. Stay tuned for more to come about these wonderful presenters and the insightful information and tips shared by them.

Monday, April 5, 2010


"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Henry Rod

I read this today in Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. It reminded me of something my aunt used to tell me--think you can, think you can't; either way, you're right. It is so true. The power of belief is a strong and daunting force in what one will or will not accomplish on any given day. I know it is for me. If I believe I am going to have a productive day, I am much more likely to accomplish what I set out to accomplish. If I believe I am going to have a fairly unproductive day, that belief typically holds true as well.

How about you? What do you believe you can acomplish today?